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The Royal Court presents six new plays by writers from five different countries


The Royal Court presents six new plays by writers from five different countries

Following the sold-out mini-season New Plays: Japan, which ran in the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs in January 2023, the Royal Court presents six new plays by writers from five different countries:

Barbados, Jamaica, Mexico, Brazil and the Philippines. In keeping with the series thus far, these will be staged readings which run in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs from Wednesday 10 – Thursday 25 January 2024, with a different play running each Wednesday and Thursday evening across the three weeks.

Mariana Gándara, Executive Coordinator of the Ingmar Bergman Chair on film and theatre at UNAM:

“This exchange was a powerful reminder of the value of generosity, of how we can push the boundaries of each other’s work while broadening the scope of our own, however different our contexts and practices, through a shared belief in the potential of theatre. 

“For Mexican writers, creating new plays in the conditions we find ourselves in is a statement of principle, a stubborn way of loving life. Two examples of this are Sara Pinedo and Sonia Gregorio. Strong-willed and talented, they are a voice for the problems of our country. In Field Studies, Sara confronts the impotence and grief of the crisis of the disappeared in Guanajuato by creating an act of performative activism. In A Migrant Ball of Thread, through a nuanced use of language, rhythm and echoes, Sonia tells a story of female desire, loneliness and solidarity in rural Oaxaca.”

The three-week season will mark the culmination of multiple strands of work from the Royal Court’s International Department, which happens year-round at the Theatre. The six performances come from artists making work in a rich variety of different traditions and languages. Many of them began life on writers groups and projects run by the Court in collaboration with partners from around the world.

The series will be accompanied by a series of talks and discussions that explore the political, social and cultural conversations surrounding the plays. The series will include Scam-Uh-Life by Jherad Alleyne, Cabin Fever by Michaela Spencer, Field Studies (Estudios en Campo) by Sara Pinedo, A Migrant Ball of Thread (Ovillo) by Sonia Gregorio, Black Horses Are Massive (Cavalos Pretos São Imensos) by Bárbara Esmenia and Borderlands: As Above, So Below by Rogelio Braga.

Mariana Gándara:

“These diverse works are a testament to the breadth of contemporary theatre in Mexico and the importance of the collaboration with the Royal Court Theatre. One that carefully and rigorously nurtures new and better opportunities.”

The International Programme at the Royal Court builds and develops the theatre’s relationships with writers and artists from around the world. Forming long-term partnerships with theatre makers and organisations from different traditions and working in different languages and cultural contexts.

The programme runs long term writers’ groups, residencies, exchange projects and produces work by international artists as well as supporting the practice of theatre in translation, with projects and opportunities aimed at emerging translators. Other recent partnerships include writers groups run with arts partners in Chile, Iraq, Japan, Palestine and Peru.

Phillippe Cato, Senior Literary Associate at the Royal Court:

“It was a joy and genuine life-changing experience working with the Caribbean writers and partners on the Writing for Performance project. The passion everyone had for storytelling, cultural exchange, and learning was super inspiring and unlike anything I’ve been a part of before. It’s not often an opportunity presents itself to be making work with creatives whose backgrounds and cultures align so closely to my own and this might be the most rewarding thing I take away from this project. 

“The plays explore a wide array of subject matters, often very specific to the countries, or parishes, or towns, that the writers are from. However, there were interesting, shared themes including classism and wealth divides, ancestral and religious practices, the impact of colonisation, abuse of power and the ignored violence against women. Expect to go on a journey with each of these plays where you will belly laugh, gasp, feel moved, and ultimately be left thinking more deeply about the world we live in, having seen it through someone else’s eyes.”

Cabin Fever by Michaela Spencer, Wednesday 10th January 7.00pm

At the secluded Jamaican resort they run together, Lisa and Damian’s dysfunctional relationship is holding her back from her dreams and financial aspirations. When an eccentric investor arrives in the middle of the night, it feels like salvation may be at hand. 

Scam-Uh-Life by Jherad Alleyne, Thursday 11th January 7.00pm

Kenroy has big dreams to break the cycle of barely getting by – if he can get to his last day of training. Scam-Uh-Life is a comedic tragedy about not being able to catch a break, an ode to the vibrant characters of Barbados. 

Discussion. A panel with Jherad and Michaela will follow the reading of Scam-Uh-Life on the 11th January.

Cabin Fever and Scam-Uh-Life were developed as part of a writers group project in Barbados, Jamaica & Trinidad and Tobago run in partnership with the British Council, Edna Manley College, University of the West Indies Cave Hill and National Drama Association Trinidad and Tobago.

Borderlands: As Above, So Below by Rogelio Braga, directed by Andrea Ling, Wednesday 17th January 7.00pm

Borderlands: As Above, So Below brings together extracts from Rogelio Braga’s story of two powerful transpinay mambabarang (sorceresses) living in London with material charting the rise of fascism in the Philippines and the hostile environment in Britain. Deploying the Filipino concepts of paglublob at pakikisangkot (to plunge and to engage), the evening invites a discussion – between migrants, non-migrants, and activist and labour organisations – to create a counter-language to the hostile environment. This project has been produced by Harris Albar, in association with New Earth Theatre. 

Black Horses Are Massive (Cavalos Pretos São Imensos) by Bárbara Esmenia, directed by Debbie Hannan, translated by Almiro Andrade. Thursday 18th January 7.00pm

Trapped in a Brazilian prison, Nininha and her cellmates devise personal and collective strategies for surviving incarceration. Each of them can transform into a massive black horse whenever she pleases. But in reality there are no fantasies, no romanticism, just the brutality of the system itself.

Discussion. A panel with Bárbara will follow the reading of Black Horses Are Massive on the 18th January.

Black Horses Are Massive was submitted to the Royal Court as a part of an international call out for plays from across the Lusophone-speaking world. 

Field Studies (Estudios en Campo) by Sara Pinedo, translated by Daniel Goldman, directed and performed by Sara Pinedo. Wednesday 24th January 7.00pm

This series of actions, performed by writer/maker Sara Pinedo, shed new light on the real-life cases of forced disappearances, searches, denunciations and resistance in Guanajuato, Mexico. This piece of educational archive theatre is both protest and testimony. This is a reminder that the search for the ‘disappeared’ must continue in multiple languages, both artistic and every day. 

A Migrant Ball of Thread (Ovillo) by Sonia Gregorio, translated by Sophie Stevens, directed by Mariana Gándara. Thursday 25th January 7.00pm

This is the story of four women, in a place very similar to an ant’s nest. Every year, a man leaves and promises to return with the prospect of a better life. Every year, a woman is left waiting. This is a community in rural Oaxaca. A place where prayers are stitched into handkerchiefs. Where daughters only know their fathers through phone calls. Where wives are married to ghosts.  

Discussion. A panel with Sara and Sonia will follow the reading of Migrant Ball of Thread on the 25th January.

Field Studies and Migrant Ball of Thread were developed through a writers group for emerging writers and theatre makers from Mexico, run in partnership with Anglo Arts and Teatro UNAM in Mexico City.

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